Federal prosecutors have accused a Minnesota man of falsely claiming to have been prisoner of war in Iraq and to have served with the Marine unit whose casualties were among the highest of the war to defraud the Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, out of more than $146,000 in health and education benefits along with disability compensation, court records show.

Mikhail Robin Wicker, aka Michael Robin Wicker, has been charged with wire fraud for allegedly falsifying documents to earn benefits to which he was not entitled, according to the indictment against him.

Prosecutors claim Wicker spent years falsely claiming that he served with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, a unit that suffered some of the highest casualties of the Iraq war, according to the indictment. The company lost 22 Marines and a Navy Corpsman during its 2005 deployment near Haditha in Iraq’s Anbar province.

Wicker, 37, is accused of falsely claiming that he was wounded in combat and that he was held as a prisoner of war in Iraq from February 25 to March 4, 2005, according to the indictment, which the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota posted online.

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Francis Herbert White III, Wicker’s attorney, told Task & Purpose on Friday that his client is innocent.

“I think we need to let the government attempt to prove their case,” White said. “All I need to say is that he is not guilty of the crimes for which he has been charged. We will let this play out in the court.”

When asked if he was asserting that Wicker never claimed to be a prisoner of War, White replied, “I didn’t say that.”

“I said he is not guilty of the crimes for which he has been charged,” White continued.

Between December 2015 and April 2020, Wicker allegedly collected veterans benefits to which he was not entitled, including primary care, emergency care, psychiatric care, dental care, optometry, and other specialized treatment, the indictment against him says.

“Based on his fraudulent claim of prior military service, Wicker received this care either free of charge or for only a small co-pay,” according to the indictment.

Prosecutors claim that Wicker submitted a forged DD-214 and fraudulent certificates for the Iraq Campaign Medal and Purple Heart to bolster his claim that he had deployed to Iraq as a Marine between 2004 and 2005, and that he had received the Purple Heart, Prisoner of War Medal and several other decorations often associated with Iraq deployments, the indictment says.

Wicker allegedly claimed that he suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress as well as injuries to his shoulder, knee, and wrist from a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq, court records show. For those alleged injuries, Wicker received $1,000 a month in disability compensation benefits.

Later, Wicker allegedly applied to the VA for an increase in disability rating, claiming the symptoms from his supposed combat-related injuries had worsened, court records show.

In June 2017, Wicker applied for VA education benefits, the indictment says. He ultimately received a monthly subsistence allowance and the VA made direct payments to North Dakota State University for tuition, fees, and supplies.

The practice of falsely claiming to be a veteran or to have received military awards is known as “Stolen Valor.” 

Some notable Stolen Valor cases include Sarah Jane Cavanaugh, who was sentenced last year to 70 months in prison for defrauding veterans charities of more than $250,000. Cavanaugh falsely claimed she was a combat-wounded Marine veteran as well as a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient.

Marine veteran Paul John Herbert was indicted in September for allegedly falsely claiming to have been wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq after the Gulf War to receive more than $344,000 in disability benefits. Herbert also applied for a Purple Heart.

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